Πέμπτη, 24 Απριλίου 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News


Drought may take toll on Congo rainforest, NASA satellites show

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 02:09 PM PDT

A new analysis of NASA satellite data shows Africa's Congo rainforest, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, has undergone a large-scale decline in greenness over the past decade. Scientists use the satellite-derived "greenness" of forest regions as one indicator of a forest's health. While this study looks specifically at the impact of a persistent drought in the Congo region since 2000, researchers say that a continued drying trend might alter the composition and structure of the Congo rainforest, affecting its biodiversity and carbon storage.

Rural microbes could boost city dwellers' health, study finds

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 02:09 PM PDT

The greater prevalence of asthma, allergies and other chronic inflammatory disorders among people of lower socioeconomic status might be due in part to their reduced exposure to the microbes that thrive in rural environments, according to a new scientific paper.

Male or female? First sex-determining genes appeared in mammals some 180 million years ago

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 12:10 PM PDT

The Y chromosome, which distinguishes males from females at the genetic level, appeared some 180 million years ago. It originated twice independently in all mammals. Scientists have managed to date these events that are crucial for both mammalian evolution and our lives, because the Y chromosome determines whether we are born as a boy or girl.

Conservation priorities released for several protected areas along U.S.-Mexico border

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 11:30 AM PDT

The CEC releases its conservation assessment for priority conservation areas in a region straddling the United States-Mexico border that includes 11 different protected areas in the states of Texas, Coahuila, and Chihuahua. This region features highly diverse arid and semi-arid habitats inhabited by endangered plants and animals, and provides a vital migratory stopping point for many species of birds and animals.

Increased infrastructure required for effective oil spill response in U.S. Arctic

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 11:30 AM PDT

A changing climate is increasing the accessibility of U.S. Arctic waters to commercial activities such as shipping, oil and gas development, and tourism, raising concern about the risk of oil spills. The Arctic poses several challenges to oil spill response, including extreme weather and environmental settings, limited operations and communications infrastructure, a vast geographic area, and vulnerable species, ecosystems, and cultures.

Pollutants from coal-burning stoves strongly associated with miscarriages in Mongolia

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 11:28 AM PDT

Burning coal for domestic heating may contribute to early fetal death according to a new study that took place in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia -- the coldest capital city in the world. Researchers report "alarmingly strong statistical correlations" between seasonal ambient air pollutants and pregnancy loss.

Picky male black widow spiders prefer well-fed virgins

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:26 AM PDT

New research shows that male black widow spiders prefer their female mates to be well-fed virgins -- a rare example of mate preference by male spiders. The study found they can tell whether a potential mate is well-fed and unmated by pheromones released by females.

Enzymes that help fix cancer-causing DNA defects disovered

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:26 AM PDT

An important enzyme pathway that helps prevent new cells from receiving too many or too few chromosomes, a condition that has been directly linked to cancer and other diseases, has been discovered by researchers. Near the end of cell division, the enzyme Cdc14 activates Yen1, an enzyme that ensures any breaks in DNA are fully repaired before the parent cell distributes copies of the genome to daughter cells, the researchers found. This process helps safeguard against some of the most devastating genome errors, including the loss of chromosomes or chromosome segments.

Novel compound halts cocaine addiction, relapse behaviors

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:26 AM PDT

A novel compound that targets an important brain receptor has a dramatic effect against a host of cocaine addiction behaviors, including relapse behavior, an animal study has found. The research provides strong evidence that this may be a novel lead compound for treating cocaine addiction, for which no effective medications exist.

Scientists identify source of mysterious sound in the Southern Ocean

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:26 AM PDT

Scientists have conclusive evidence that the source of a unique rhythmic sound, recorded for decades in the Southern Ocean and called the 'bio-duck,' is the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis). First described and named by submarine personnel in the 1960s who thought it sounded like a duck, the bio-duck sound has been recorded at various locations in the Southern Ocean, but its source has remained a mystery, until now.

Odds of storm waters overflowing Manhattan seawall up 20-fold

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:26 AM PDT

Maximum water levels in New York harbor during major storms have risen by nearly two and a half feet since the mid-1800s, making the chances of water overtopping the Manhattan seawall now at least 20 times greater than they were 170 years ago, according to a new study.

Predicting drift of floating pumice 'islands' can benefit shipping

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:25 AM PDT

A new technique will aid in predicting the dispersal and drift patterns of large floating 'islands' of pumice created by volcanic eruptions at sea. Known as pumice rafts, these large mobile accumulations of pumice fragments can spread to affect a considerable area of the ocean, damaging vessels and disrupting shipping routes for months or even years. The ability to predict where these rafts will end up could give enough advance warning for protective measures to be put in place on shipping routes or in harbours where the presence of pumice is hazardous.

Late freeze kills fruit buds, study shows

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:24 AM PDT

The recent late cold snap could mean less fruit this year. A horticulturist explains how to check if your fruit buds survived the late burst of cold weather. Fruit buds are usually damaged when it is 28 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. However, this researcher says that while the fruit may be lost, the trees will survive so there should be plenty of fruit next year.

Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to U.S. obesity epidemic, particularly among children

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:24 AM PDT

In response to the ongoing policy discussions on the role of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on weight and health, The Obesity Society (TOS) concludes that SSBs contribute to the United States' obesity epidemic, particularly among children. Based on an in-depth analysis of the current research, TOS's position statement provides several recommendations for improving health, including that children minimize their consumption of SSBs.

From liability to viability: Genes on the Y chromosome prove essential for male survival

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:24 AM PDT

The human Y chromosome has, over the course of millions of years of evolution, preserved a small set of genes that has ensured not only its own survival but also the survival of men. Moreover, the vast majority of these tenacious genes appear to have little if any role in sex determination or sperm production. Taken together, these remarkable findings suggest that because these Y-linked genes are active across the body, they may actually be contributing to differences in disease susceptibility and severity observed between men and women.

Following a protein's travel inside cells is key to improving patient monitoring, drug development

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 08:15 AM PDT

A technique to detect subcellular location of a protein has been developed by scientists. In science, "simple and accessible detection methods that can rapidly screen a large cell population with the resolution of a single cell inside that population has been seriously lacking," said one engineer involved in the study. Their work involved a simple and unique tweak to the conventional cell staining process allowed the researchers to accurately define the subcellular location of the protein by measuring the amount of the residual protein after release.

Fiction prepares us for a world changed by global warming

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 07:27 AM PDT

Climate fiction, or simply cli-fi, is a newly coined term for novels and films which focus on the consequences of global warming. New research shows how these fictions serve as a mental laboratory that allows us to simulate the potential consequences of climate change and imagine other living conditions.

Legalizing medical marijuana doesn't increase use among adolescents, study says

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 07:27 AM PDT

Parents and physicians concerned about an increase in adolescents' marijuana use following the legalization of medical marijuana can breathe a sigh of relief. According to a new study that compared 20 years worth of data from states with and without medical marijuana laws, legalizing the drug did not lead to increased use among adolescents.

How to avoid water wars between 'fracking' industry and residents

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 07:27 AM PDT

The shale gas boom has transformed the energy landscape in the U.S., but in some drier locations, it could cause conflict among the energy industry, residents and agricultural interests over already-scarce water resources, say researchers. They add that degraded water quality is a potential risk unless there are adequate safeguards.

High-calorie, low-nutrient foods in kids' TV programs

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 07:26 AM PDT

Fruits and vegetables are often displayed in the popular Swedish children's TV show Bolibompa, but there are also plenty of high-sugar foods. A new study explores how food is portrayed in children's TV programs, as well as the link between young children's TV viewing, dietary habits and weight status.

New discovery helps solve mystery source of African lava

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 07:21 AM PDT

Floods of molten lava may sound like the stuff of apocalyptic theorists, but history is littered with evidence of such past events where vast lava outpourings originating deep in the Earth accompany the breakup of continents. New research shows that the source of some of these epic outpourings, however, may not be as deep as once thought. The results show that some of these lavas originated near the surface rather than deep within the mantle.

How Australia's Outback got one million feral camels: Camels culled on large scale

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 07:19 AM PDT

A new study has shed light on how an estimated one million-strong population of wild camels thriving in Australia's remote outback have become reviled as pests and culled on a large scale.

Political ravens? Ravens notice the relationships among others, study shows

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 07:19 AM PDT

Cognitive biologists have revealed that ravens do understand and keep track of the rank relations between other ravens. Such an ability has been known only from primates. Like many social mammals, ravens form different types of social relationships -- they may be friends, kin, or partners and they also form strict dominance relations. From a cognitive perspective, understanding one's own relationships to others is a key ability in daily social life ("knowing who is nice or not"). Yet, also understanding the relationships group members have with each other sets the stage for "political" maneuvers ("knowing who might support whom").

Cell division speed influences gene architecture

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 06:51 AM PDT

Speed-reading is a technique used to read quickly. It involves visual searching for clues to meaning and skipping non-essential words and/or sentences. Similarly in humans, biological systems are sometimes under selective pressure to quickly "read" genetic information. Genes that need to be read quickly are usually small, as the smaller the encoding message, the easier it will be to read them quickly. Now, researchers have discovered that, besides size, the gene architecture is also important to the optimization of the "reading" process.

Best practices in communication for animal world

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 05:23 PM PDT

Effective communication is not just about the signaler, according to a new study. The receiver also needs to assess the signaler efficiently. For instance, one of the most effective strategies from the perspective of female birds is assessing groups of males called leks, where females can assess multiple males in a short period of time.

Getting at the root of mountain pine beetle's rapid habitat expansion

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 05:23 PM PDT

The mountain pine beetle has wreaked havoc in North America, across forests from the American Southwest to British Columbia and Alberta, with the potential to spread all the way to the Atlantic coast. Using a newly sequenced beetle genome, authors examined how the pine beetle could undergo such rapid habitat range expansion.

Cougars’ diverse diet helped them survive the mass extinction that wiped out the saber-tooth cat, American lion

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 05:20 PM PDT

Cougars may have survived the mass extinction that took place about 12,000 years ago because they were not particular about what they ate, unlike their more finicky cousins the saber-tooth cat and American lion who perished, according a new analysis of the microscopic wear marks on the teeth of fossil cougars, saber-tooth cats and American lions.

Scientists pinpoint protein that could improve small cell lung cancer therapies

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 12:28 PM PDT

Approximately 15 percent of all lung cancers are small cell lung cancers, which grow rapidly and often develop resistance to chemotherapy. However, researchers have revealed new insights into the mechanisms leading to this resistance that may lead to improved therapies. They discovered that the expression of a protein called Noxa is critical to the effectiveness of ABT-737 because it helps regulate the function of MCL-1, another pro-survival Bcl-2 family protein.

New electric fish genus, species discovered in Brazil's Rio Negro

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 09:12 AM PDT

Discovery of a new species of electric knife fish in the Amazon Basin in Brazil is leading to a new interpretation of classifications and interrelationships among closely related groups. As the diversity of electric fishes becomes more thoroughly documented, researchers will be able to explore possible causes of this group's adaptive radiation over evolutionary time.

How the body fights against viruses

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 08:33 AM PDT

Scientists have shown how double stranded RNA is prevented from entering the nucleus of a cell. During the response against viral infection, the protein ADAR1 moves from the cell nucleus into the surrounding cytoplasm. There it modifies viral RNA to inhibit reproduction of the virus. But how is the human genome protected from inadvertent import of viral RNA into the nucleus?

Combination of alcohol, tobacco increases risk of esophageal cancer

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 08:32 AM PDT

The rate of developing esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) nearly doubles in those who both smoke and drink compared to those who only smoke or drink, according to new research. "Our study suggests that not only do alcohol and tobacco play an important role in the development of esophageal cancer, the combination of their use markedly increases their potency as carcinogens," said the lead author.

179 million cases of acute diarrhea in U.S. each year, most preventable

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 08:32 AM PDT

Approximately 179 million cases of acute diarrhea occur each year in the United States, and most of those cases are entirely preventable, a researcher concluded. The main causes of diarrheal infections include norovirus outbreaks and foodborne pathogens, with most coming from contaminated leafy green vegetables, he states.

Cow manure harbors diverse new antibiotic resistance genes

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 05:49 AM PDT

Manure from dairy cows, which is commonly used as a farm soil fertilizer, contains a surprising number of newly identified antibiotic resistance genes from the cows' gut bacteria. The findings hints that cow manure is a potential source of new types of antibiotic resistance genes that transfer to bacteria in the soils where food is grown. "Is this a route for movement of these genes from the barn to the table?" asks the senior study author.

Protein expression gets the heart pumping

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 05:49 AM PDT

Most people think the development of the heart only happens in the womb, however the days and weeks following birth are full of cellular changes that play a role in the structure and function of the heart. Using mouse models, researchers have now been able to categorize the alternative splicing (the process in which genes code proteins, determining their role) that takes place during these changes and what mechanisms they affect.

UV-radiation data to help ecological research

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 05:47 AM PDT

Existing data on global UV-B radiation has been processed by researchers in such a way that they can use them to find answers to many ecological questions. According to a new paper, this data set allows drawing new conclusions about the global distribution of animal and plant species. Unlike the rather harmless UV-A radiation, the high-energy UV-B radiation causes health problems to humans, animals and plants. Well known is the higher risk of skin cancer.

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